Monday, November 24, 2014


....our first granddaughter has been born!
I am pleased to introduce you to Lady L.  She was born early this morning to S&A.  All are healthy (except for a broken tailbone for A).  She has beautiful blue eyes and kissable cheeks!  She weighs 8lbs. 2oz. and is 21" long.

I will post a few more pics, but they may load upside down.  Trust me, Lady L isn't upside's just my poor blogging skills....
Yep, upside down.  Sigh.  Please turn your phone around...

And again.  Sigh again...Let me try one more time...
Ok, I quit.  You have to turn your phone 90 degrees counterclockwise for that one.  Sigh.

But we are excited to welcome her into the world!!  I was very tempted to buy something PINK, but I resisted.  For now!!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

5th Annual Morrison Family Pie Night / Baking Friday Pie # 11

Is in the books!
Thankfully my musical friend, S, and my son-in-law, K, thought to take pics!  Otherwise, we would only have one pic from my phone of this beautiful family.  Good pic, no doubt, but I'm not sure where my brain was that I forgot to take more pics!
You see that chocolate tart that is right in front of R?  The one closes to the plates?  THAT is our Baking Friday Pie # 11 that I will share how to make in this post, too, but I don't have pics of making it!  Can you tell I was in Mobile Pie Night mode since we packed up every one of these pies and took them to S&K's house for Pie Night this year?  Sigh.  But I will share the recipe below!

First here is another pic of all of the pies...this one from K.
Here are pics of some of the individual pies...courtesy of my self-appointed and much appreciated photographers!
Old-fashioned Custard

French Silk

German Chocolate

Grand Marnier Pecan



Want to see all of the pies again, but this time with names of what each one was?

Starting at the top left and working my way across and down, here we go!

For G - Coconut Cream - homemade pastry cream made with coconut milk and egg yolks, grated, sweetened coconut and then topped with lightly toasted coconut meringue.  The coconut milk makes all the difference!

For little ones K and S - Gingerbread Whoopie - cause who doesn't like a couple of soft gingerbread cookies sandwiched together with fluffy marshmallow frosting?  Truly for the kid in all of us.

To satisfy a couple of cravings - Guinness Shepherd's Pie - the same one I posted about as Pie # 3 in March.  It's still good!  And this may become a new Pie Night tradition!!

For A - Chocolate Strawberry - I think I got it right this time!  You may recall that last year I tried to make a chocolate strawberry pie for A but it didn't turn out right, so I kept thinking and looking and got inspired by none other than Helen Fletcher - and it worked!  See below for how I made it!

For D - Apple - D's favorite pie, chosen every year.  And with NO HANDS!

For Deb - Peach - EXCEPT....that I have pretty much decided that I don't care for peach pie when it is made with frozen peaches.  If you go back and read one of my posts from August, G & I celebrated Christmas in August with peach picking from August - the most beautiful, juicy, large, gorgeous we'd ever seen!  So we froze most of them...but they just don't bake up as nicely after freezing.  Perhaps if I had 162 shelves of freezer space and 162 cookie sheets, I could individually quick freeze peach slices like they do commercially and they would bake up in pie as well as fresh, but otherwise I'm not so sure how to get as good a pie from frozen peaches as from fresh.  Still thinking though...

For N - Banana Cream - homemade pastry cream with layers of sliced bananas on a graham cracker crust.  Classic.  Sweet.  Tasty.  Satisfying.

For K - Chocolate and Coconut Pecan Custard - here is the link to this recipe that SR & KR found that they wanted to test run for Thanksgiving.  I volunteered to be their test run, and it's a good one!  It is easy and good!  It doesn't get much better than that!

For S - Razzleberry - S's favorite pie is Marie Callendar's Razzleberry pie, so I tried my hand at one.  I followed the guidelines of my favorite Blueberry Pie recipe that includes boiling down sweetened wine to a syrup before mixing in with the fruits and thickeners.  It had a good flavor, but I am still trying to work on the right balance of juice to thickener, because it was too soupy once it was cut.  It is tricky to find that balance on fruit pies - even for the most experienced of pie bakers.  But I am learning!

For K - French Silk - the classic...velvety smooth chocolate in a pastry crust garnished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  Hard to beat and shows up every year for good reason!

For T - German Chocolate - homemade chocolate pastry cream with chopped pecans, topped with homemade coconut pecan frosting.  Good pie.  Got very positive reviews.  I think I prefer the above Chocolate and Coconut Pecan Custard, but they are both easy enough to host your own throwdown!

For P - Caramel Dutch Apple - apples...cinnamon...caramel...streusel...more caramel...what's not to like?  Winner!

For S - Run for the Roses - here is the link for this version of Derby - chocolate and pecans laced with bourbon.  You'll be searching for your over-sized hat and Mint Julep in no time!

For J-man - Oreo - When S asked J-man what he wanted for his pie, he replied something like "A Great Big Dough!" followed by giggles.  And somehow his Daddy interpreted that to mean Oreo.  So simple.  So tasty.  Cookies and cream.  This pie is popular and goes fast!

For Pie Night - Grand Marnier Pecan - I featured this pie in my 5th Friday Pies back in May.  S chose this pie last year, and for the first time ever, I added a Pie Night Pie, which means that S is now "winning" Pie Night.  As G put it, when it comes to "piemetrics", this pie measures high ratings for "culinary exquisitivities" (two new words right there in case you missed that).  This pie takes pecan pie to a higher level of "culinary exquisitivities".  Now you may not like the word "exquisitivities" may not make sense to you but perhaps this background will help.  I was suggesting a phrase I heard a long time ago..."culinary orgasm" as a suggestion for this pie...and then asked if I could use that phrase in my blog.  G assured me that it was ok for me to use that word cause I'm a married woman.... and then we both promptly reminded ourselves that our kids may read this blog we decided "culinary exquisitivities" was better.  Somehow.  Ahem.  Uh...back to the pies...

For B - Pumpkin - classic spicy custard that many love.  While B chooses it every year (since it's the only pie I think she likes), it either doesn't get cut (this year) or only one small piece is cut.  When so many other options are available, you can only eat so much pie!

For J - Old-Fashioned Custard - scalded milk and cream...eggs...generous sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg.  Sweet.  Lightly spicy.  Smooth.  Creamy.  Classic and shows up every year for us.

Not pictured because they were in the fridge and freezer when these pics were taken:

For S - Margarita Pie - yep that's right.  Lime juice, tequila, orange pie form with a sweet, crumbly graham cracker crust.  Creamy...sweet...and I would suggest that you like tequila!  It is a bit prominent - and NOT cooked out!!

For R - Mocha - creamy (too creamy...more like soupy, because I failed to include the cream cheese called for in the recipe!) sweet coffee and chocolate, like a mocha latte.  I would do this again WITH the cream cheese!  I still owe you a pie, R!

And finally, last but certainly not least...

For J - Turtle - ice cream, caramel, chocolate ganache and chopped pecans.  Turtle sundae in a pie!

I love our Morrison Family Pie Nights and hope that everyone who is able to come feels the love in each pie!  

Now - here is how I made the Chocolate Strawberry tart for A.  As she put it, we need to keep this recipe.  The more she ate it, the more she wanted to eat!  That is a good sign!

Let's start with Helen Fletcher's inspiration.  From her blog "Pastries Like a Pro" Helen recently posted a recipe for Chocolate Cranberry Curd Tart that was very popular at her bakery.  I used her recipe for the crust and her idea for glazing with chocolate ganache, but filled it with strawberry curd instead of cranberry curd.  I used this recipe for strawberry curd, and it couldn't be simpler.  I also did something I'd never done before to give the strawberries more of a boost of baked-in flavor...I sliced the prettiest berries and laid the slices on a cake rack over my 10" x 15" jelly roll pan.  Then I slid them into a 400 degree oven and roasted for about 15 minutes.  After cooling for a few minutes, I layered them over about half of the curd and then covered them with the remainder of the curd.  The final touch was to glaze the chilled tart in chocolate ganache until smooth.  This worked!  Another good suggestion was to dry the berries in a dehydrator and then grind the dried berries to a powder to sprinkle on the curd.  I would like to try that sometime!

Here are the recipe details: 

Chocolate Press Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (not called for in Helen's)

This is enough for an 11" x 1" quiche tart pan.  If you don't have a tart pan that size, then you will have a bit left over, but the dough bakes up as a couple of nice cookies for cook's treat!

I used my food processor to combine the flours, cocoa and cinnamon.  Then I added the butter and processed until very fine.  Then I added the sugar and baking powder and mixed in briefly.  Finally I added the egg and egg yolk and processed until the dough formed into a ball.

I divided the ball in half and then one half into half again.  Each of those quarters, I rolled into ropes and then pressed both ropes into the tart pan sides.  Finally I pressed the other half into the bottom of the tart pan.  (I did a quick spray of Pam in the center of the tart bottom to help with releasing and serving.)  I made sure everything was sealed together, pricked the bottom and baked the crust at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool while making the curd and roasting the strawberry slices.

Strawberry Curd
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 cup lime juice
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
3 T. butter

Process strawberries in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Press strawberries through a large wire-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, using back of a spoon to squeeze out juice; discard pulp and seeds. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3-qt. saucepan; gradually whisk in strawberry puree and fresh lime juice. Whisk in 3 large eggs and 2 egg yolks. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter. 

Pour half of the hot curd into the cooled crust and then lay the roasted strawberries (see above) over the curd before covering the roasted strawberry slices with the remainder of the curd.  Cover the curd with plastic wrap directly on the surface and chill overnight.

Chocolate Ganache
2/3 cup heavy cream
2-1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate

Warm the cream to a simmer.  Pour over the chocolate and make sure all pieces are submerged.  Let this sit for 4 - 5 minutes and then whisk until smooth.  Pour over the chilled curd and then return to the fridge until serving time.

Happy Thanksgiving!  And Happy Pie Night!  Thanks for stopping by!!   

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pre-Pie Night Pie Night

I am getting in full on Pie Night mode!  Our 5th Annual Morrison Family Pie Night is two nights away!  I will share those pics soon!

But I have already done one Pie Night this year that I haven't posted about. However someone was asking where the post was about this other Pie Night, so here it is.

Now - I have hesitated to share this for obvious reasons.  We had a theme.  This was for certain people.  Certain people that I highly respect and appreciate who have endured a great deal of criticism and abuse, especially over the last 3 months here in Ferguson.  But those very same people are not highly respected or appreciated by others.  And so others won't find our theme to be smile worthy.  Others might use the word "offended" after seeing our theme.

Where do you land?  On the smile side? Or the offended side?
No matter where you may land the people that were the invitees and honorees for this Pie Night liked our theme.  They got a much needed smile and chuckle from our theme.
I must give credit where credit is due.  I did not come up with our theme.  About a month ago, P asked me how come she hadn't heard anything about Pie Night this year.  My response was - cause Ferguson....G and I weren't sure whether we would have Pie Night.  Almost immediately P responded: " Hands Down!  We Want Pie!"

And an idea was born!  So I started working with a police officer and fire captain to arrange a Pie Night appreciation event for our local Ferguson 1st Responders.  We got help on the signs from P and her peeps, music (our Pie Night Song plus songs about Pie!) from my friend, S, and pies made from my daughter, S, so we had a total of 40 pies, 13 of which were personal pies for 1st responders to take home and share with their families.
I'm not sure that they had any idea what Pie Night was really all about, but they liked it just the same!

Our hope was that the officers and 1st responders would feel loved and blessed and supported by a few folks.  At least for one night.  And I think that they did.

One last thought - I made 6 fruit pies that had our theme.  I would have done more, but it took a LOT of time to cut 6 of each of these letters, glue them to the tops of the pies with beaten egg and then paint them to brighten the letters.  
Do you know how to paint letters like this?  All you do is add gel food coloring to a beaten egg yolk and paint it on the unbaked dough  Easy, yes.  But fast?  Not always.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm NOT complaining about the time involved.  Not at all.  I wish I could have done more this way, but I want to simply be honest about the time involved should you want to replicate this idea for words like "We Love You" or "Happy Birthday" or "Congratulations!" on a pie sometime.

I haven't decided what words I am going to put on our pies two nights from now...hmmmm....

Happy Pre-Pie Night!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Baking Friday - Bread # 11

Thanksgiving Day Parade watching breakfast bread perhaps?
Think buttery rich French brioche dough filled with apples and cinnamon and cream cheese, finished off with a drizzle of caramel glaze.  Cozy and warm enough for watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade while your turkey roasts but fancy enough to perhaps impress a fussy mother-in-law.

As one taste tester put it, "this was the perfect breakfast."  I'd never made this before, but this is a keeper.  I will do this again!

And while it may look hard, it really isn't.  If you have a food processor and a rolling pin, you got this!  I promise.
It is all based on the brioche recipe that Helen Fletcher shared in her New Pastry Cook Book from over 25 years ago.  I will share her original recipe for the dough below as well as the changes I made in part because I was low on bread flour.  Scandal!

If you Google brioche dough, you will find recipes that involve long beating times of a rich egg yeast dough and then mixing in multiple tablespoons of butter until fully incorporated.  Helen's recipe can be put together in under 25 minutes, and that includes 15 - 20 minutes of a sponge rising time when you are off doing something else!  Her recipe is a real time saver, but in true Helen form, you get all of the goodness of brioche without any loss to the classic brioche flakiness and richness.  Helen is simply genius that way!

I didn't save any of this for G, but I plan to make it for our Thanksgiving Day breakfast.  We like to snuggle on the couch and watch the parades, and this is a perfect bread to snack on over coffee and hot tea!  I may very well bake it this weekend, freeze it and then reheat it on Thanksgiving morning and add the glaze at that point.  Talk about easy!

Ready for the recipe and pics?  Here we go!

1 teaspoon active yeast (yes, only 1 teaspoon - trust me, it's enough!)
2 tablespoons warm water (warm enough for a baby's bath but no hotter)
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons of bread flour (from the flour measured below)

Combine all 3 in a small bowl.
Then let it rise for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Helen suggests wrapping it in a plastic bag tied shut to increase the moisture and warmth and help the yeast to grow.  At the end of this time, the sponge should be...well...spongy!
If you go longer than 20 min, that's fine.  I got involved in watching a DVD on World War II with G called "Band of Brothers" so mine rose quite a bit longer.  This is actually our second time through this DVD set.  The story line is that good, and I just love the theme music!  The soundtrack is on my wish list for my secret Santa this year!

But back to brioche!

2 - 1/2 cups bread flour (see note below)
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold butter (1-1/2 sticks) cut in about 6 - 7 chunks
3 eggs room temperature
1/4 cup cream or half-n-half

Note: I didn't realize that I was running low on bread flour, so I used these quantities, and it worked just fine!  The white whole wheat has enough structure to mimic bread flour, but I wanted to use a bit of all-purpose, too, so that it wouldn't be too "wheaty" if you know what I mean.
1-1/4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

I measured these on a sheet of waxed paper.
And mixed them together fully before removing 3 tablespoons for the sponge.
I put the remainder of the flour in my food processor with the sugar and salt and mixed for a few seconds.  Then I laid the butter in a circle on top.
I mixed in the butter until fully incorporated and indistinguishable.
Finally I added the eggs, the sponge and the cream.
As Helen instructs, mix all of these together, processing for about 25 seconds until the ball that forms at first breaks back down into a creamy batter.  Don't stop the processor during this process or the motor may stall out.
The batter will be sticky, but it is pretty easy to handle using a plastic scraper.  I placed it in an ungreased glass bowl with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough and then covered the whole with a towel.
I let it rise at room temperature for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours until puffy.
At that point, I stirred it down, replaced the plastic wrap and then covered with foil before setting it in the fridge overnight.  I could have let it set in the fridge up to 3 days before shaping, too.

When I was ready to shape, I put together the filling parts.  First was the cream cheese mixture.

4 oz. softened cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
Dash of vanilla and orange extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Mix these together until smooth.
3/4 cup grated apple (about 2 peeled apples)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Toss these together.
Finally mix together about 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  That gives us these 3 parts for filling the braid.  Promising!
Now I turned my attention to the dough.  I shaped it into a log, and then cut that into 3 pieces.
I chilled 2 of the pieces and then rolled 1 into a rectangle about 22" x 6".
I spread about 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture on the dough, and about 1/6 of the cinnamon sugar, 1/3 of the grated apple and then another 1/6 of the cinnamon sugar.
I rolled this into a log on the long side, sealed it and then rolled it to about 24" long before chilling this and repeating these steps with each of the other 2 pieces of dough.

Once I had the 3 logs, I laid them side by side, ready to braid on a parchment covered cookie sheet.
I formed a braid...
...and then wrapped it around an upside down ramekin to form a circle.  I love ramekins!
You can see that I didn't form beautiful ends.  Do a better job of keeping your braid better intertwined on the ends than me!  I covered it loosing with a towel and let it rise 2 - 2-1/2 hours until puffy.  It is better to let it under rise than over rise.

When ready to put in a preheated 350 degree oven, I brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with white sparkling sugar.

This baked for 50 - 55 minutes until golden brown.  By the way, the house smelled WONDERFUL while this baked!
Lastly I put together a caramel glaze to drizzle on the top and put in the ramekin for adding as each taster desires!

Caramel Glaze
1/4 cup caramel bits
1/2 cup cream
Dash of vanilla
Dash of salt (more if you want more of a salted caramel result!)
2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar

Half melt the caramel bits in the microwave on low.  Then heat the cream until fairly warm.  Pour over the caramel bits and let sit for 1 - 2 minutes (similar procedure to making chocolate ganache.)  Mix the caramel bits and cream until smooth and fully melted.  Add the vanilla, salt and powdered sugar until desired glazing consistency is reached.  Drizzle some over the braid and then pour the remaining glaze in the warm ramekin that has been turned upright.
I found it easiest to slide the entire parchment on my serving platter and then trim the edgse, and we were ready to serve!  Breakfast anyone?

I hope you'll try this sometime!

Next week is Pie Night!!!  So I will share lots of pie next week!!  Hope you come back!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Baking Friday - Cake # 11

Cake # 11?  Cake # 11!??  When did this happen?  This Baking Friday adventure of 2014 really is coming down to our last few entries.  How crazy is that?!

We are now in November.  That means Thanksgiving.  I heart Thanksgiving.  It truly is my favorite holiday of the year!  All of the food, all of the family, all of the thankfulness plus it's the one that says "Christmas is almost here!"

Thanksgiving elicits ideas of home and family and simple and comfort food - those family favorites supplemented by the something new to try.  Our cake this month is all about family homeyness - simple, chocolaty, nutty, coconutty, sweet - German chocolate.  Our family wouldn't normally have a cake on the dessert board for Thanksgiving - we tend to be a pie family for Thanksgiving - but if we did add a cake, this is definitely one I would include as a possible contender.

I enjoy making German chocolate cake.  There are so many recipes out there, that I won't share any particular recipe with you.  I just simply add LOTS of nuts and coconut to the icing.  LOTS!
For the cake, I simply used the Texas Sheet Cake recipe featured in June baked in three 8" round pans.  I used only 3 tablespoons of cocoa instead of 4 since German chocolate is typically a lighter chocolate flavor than a more devil's food end of the chocolate spectrum.  But using the full 1/4 cup called for in the standard recipe wouldn't be a bad thing by any means!
The other thing that I like to do is frost the outside of German chocolate cakes with chocolate frosting - a softer chocolate consistency made interesting with a bit of sour cream.  If you need a sour cream chocolate frosting recipe, here is what I like to do, and this would make enough to frost the outside of an 8" round cake plus borders:

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup shortening
Dash of salt
Splash of vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
4 T. cocoa or 3oz unsweetened chocolate (melted)
1/3 cup sour cream
2 T. cream or half-n-half

Beat all of these together until smooth and creamy.  If it's too stiff or too soft, adjust consistency by adding more cream or powdered sugar until desired creaminess is reached.

Back to the coconut pecan icing.  As I said, I like to make sure that this icing has plenty of coconut and pecans!  I also glazed a few pecan halves to use as a garnish.  I simply toasted in butter...
...with a few tablespoons of brown sugar and a splash of almond syrup (like folks use in coffee and other fun drinks.)

Once glazed and toasty (and I'd caught a picture of my left foot!), I laid them in a single layer to cool and crisp up.  These are yummy just like they are or added to salads or other dishes!
Using the same pan, I made the coconut pecan frosting using the standard ingredients of butter and brown sugar, cream and beaten egg, finishing with coconut and pecans.  If you like less coconut and pecans, that's cool.  I just happen to like them to be abundant!

To assemble, I start by piping a dam of icing around the outside edge of the bottom layer.
And then fill in with some of the coconut pecan icing.
My middle tier tore a bit, so I "glued" it back together with some of the chocolate icing.  (True confession right there!)
But it held, so I kept layering coconut pecan icing and layers of cake, ending with coconut pecan on the top layer.  Then I frosted the outside with the rest of the chocolate icing and gave it a top and bottom border.  The final garnish was those glazed pecan halves!
And here's how it looked after being cut.  See the layers!
Simple.  Yummy.  Delicious.  Plentiful.  Thanksgiving cake material to me!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing this Baking Friday journey with me!  Pie Nights are coming!!!